SEATTLE, Feb. 12 (UPI) — Four sea lions and a harbor seal were victims of foul play this week, their carcasses found on a Seattle beach with bullet wounds, U.S. agents say.
One of the dead mammals was a Steller sea lion, a species classified as endangered, The Seattle Times reported. All five washed up on a beach in West Seattle.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is investigating the shootings. Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the agency, said bullets were removed from the carcasses during necropsies.
“We get one or two of these incidents a year,” Gorman said. “It’s very unusual to get multiple incidents.”
While all sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammals Act, they can be killed under certain circumstances, Gorman said. Some Indian tribes are permitted to hunt them, and they can be shot in self-defense.
But he said no one has reported shooting a sea lion, and the killings do not appear to be legal. The killer, if found, could face a $50,000 fine.
Seal Sitters, based in West Seattle, said the carcasses were towed into Puget Sound after the necropsies so they could nourish the ecosystem.
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